Premier League Picks: Man United get a Champions League mulligan

The decline of Chelsea and disqualification of Manchester City means rivals Manchester United have been handed a second chance in their pursuit of a Champions League spot. - Photo: AP

Saturday

Chelsea vs. Spurs
Local time: 7:30am
The wheels are starting to come off for Chelsea. After a great start to the campaign under new manager Frank Lampard, they are beginning to look like what they are; a talented but inexperienced young team searching for an identity under a rookie manager. Spurs are in pole position to take advantage of the Stamford Bridge slump, but every time they have got close to the top four this season, they have not quite been good enough to move up. An injury to key player Son Heung-min won’t help here.
Pick: Chelsea 2, Spurs 1

Burnley vs. Bournemouth
Local time: 10am
Outside of Liverpool, Burnley are the form team in the Premier League right now. Relegation contenders at one stage, they now have an outside chance of qualifying for Europe.
Pick: Burnley 2, Bournemouth 1

Crystal Palace vs. Newcastle
Local time: 10am
There have been some expensive transfer mistakes in Premier League history, but Newcastle’s acquisition of Brazilian striker Joelinton in the summer must be up there with the worst. A $40 million fee has bought the Magpies just one goal this season. It’s 1,856 minutes since Joelinton has hit the net.
Pick: Palace 1, Newcastle 1

Sheffield United vs. Brighton
Local time: 10am
The shock disqualification of Manchester City from next season’s Champions League has brought a host of unlikely teams into contention to qualify for Europe’s elite competition. If the ban is upheld, the fifth-placed team will qualify in City’s stead.
That equation leaves Sheffield United, newly promoted from the Championship last year, just one point below the dotted line. They have dispatched teams like Brighton with routine efficiency this season, and can put themselves further into contention on Saturday.
Pick: Sheff Utd 1, Brighton 0

Southampton vs. Aston Villa
Local time: 10am
Free-scoring Aston Villa are getting everything right at one end of the pitch. Outside of the top five, only Arsenal and Manchester United have scored more goals. Led by the menacing Jack Grealish, Villa always look like they will cause problems for opposition defences. Unfortunately, they are a disaster at the back themselves, as evidenced by their suicidal capitulation in a winnable game against Spurs last week. You can’t say it’s not entertaining.
Pick: Southampton 2, Villa 1

Leicester vs. Man City
Local time: 12:30pm
Banned from the Champions League for the next two years, more than 20 points off the lead in the league, it is fair to say this has been a bad week for Manchester City. The UEFA ban – for lying to the governing body about its sponsorship deals in order to dodge financial fair play rules – leaves the club in disarray. Will Pep Guardiola stick around to fight for domestic honours? Will Kevin De Bruyne? If this ban is upheld, it could be the undoing of Manchester City as we have come to know them. What happens on the pitch on Saturday is comparatively irrelevant. Time to lawyer up.
Pick: Leicester 1, Man CIty 3

Sunday

Man United vs. Watford
Local time: 9am
If you’ve ever played golf and shanked your tee-shot into the lake, you will be familiar with the term ‘mulligan’ – a second chance that erases the past embarrassment from the scorecard.
City’s Champions League disqualification is a mulligan for Manchester United. They have been terrible for large parts of this season, yet they could still scrape into the Champions League by clawing their way to fifth spot. Suddenly, there is everything to play for.
Pick: Man Utd 2, Watford 0

Wolves vs. Norwich
Local time: 9am
If Liverpool are (statistically at least) the best team the Premier League has ever seen, could Norwich be the best worst team? They have managed to look slick and stylish at times, without having the killer instinct to survive at this level. They are going down, for sure, but with their heads held high and their hair slicked back.
Pick: Wolves 2, Norwich 1

Arsenal vs Everton
Local time: 11:30am
After sacking their managers within the space of a few weeks at the end of last year, both these teams have experienced a revival of sorts. Arsenal are starting to play more like Arsenal. Everton are starting to play less like Everton. It’s been a win-win that has allowed the more optimistic fans to dream of a top-five finish.
Pick: Arsenal 1, Everton 1

Monday

Liverpool vs. West Ham
Local time: 3pm
Liverpool got a rare taste of defeat at Athletico Madrid on Wednesday as they were deservedly beaten in the first leg of their Champions League tie. Such is the relentlessness of this side that they remain strong favourites to qualify. A visit from West Ham Monday should serve to restore any lost confidence
Pick: Liverpool 3, West Ham 0

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